Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Cordillera's heirloom rice makes a splash at Madrid Fusion Manila

Some of the Madrid Fusion Manila participants take a break from their many activities. 

PASAY CITY, Philippines, 7-9 April—The heirloom rice of the Cordillera Region again attracted international attention at the world’s most prestigious gastronomic congress, the 2016 Madrid Fusion Manila.

Chefs and food aficionados from all over the world gathered for the annual event at the SMX Convention Center. With this year’s theme, The Manila Galleon: East Meets West, the event celebrated gastronomic finds from across the globe including the traditional rice varieties found only in the Philippine provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province, Benguet, and Kalinga.

The rice varieties were featured at the booth of the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP)a joint venture of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The booth presented the country's indigenous products, not only to increase global awareness, but also to show the potential role of the heirloom rice industry in improving the lives of Cordillera farmers’ and in conserving their heritage. 

This is the second time HRP participated in Madrid Fusion Manila and, like during the previous congress, the pigmented rice varieties attracted the attention of local and international audiences. Among them were local and international restaurateurs who showed keen interest in including heirloom rice in their menus, chefs who are on the lookout for new ingredients, and heads of food companies who are seeking to diversify their products. The rice likewise drew food bloggers and writers, health advocates, government representatives, students, and senior citizens.    
HRP team members ran the booth, which included displays of the Lab-labi, Ominio, and Unoy rice varieties for sample tasting.

The HRP team, led by Drs. Casiana Vera-Cruz and Digna Manzanilla, offered visitors samples for tasting of varieties Unoy, Lasbakan, Lab-labi, Chorchor-os, Ulikan red, and Ominio. In addition, IRRI’s Dr. Ana Cope, Ms. Pauline Capistrano, and Ms. Lucy Samadia also provided additional information about the unique characteristics and nutritional benefits of these unique varieties. Mr. Ceferino Oryan, municipal agriculturist of Barlig, Mt. Province, and Mr. Ruben Dulagan, of the DA-CAR’s Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division, helped sell the heirloom varieties on behalf of the farmers who produced them.

“Congress participants were curious about both the taste and feel of the rice as much as they were interested in how they can contribute to improving farmers’ livelihood and welfare,” said Vera-Cruz. 

On the second night of the Madrid Fusion, Robby Goco, the acclaimed executive chef of Cyma and Green Pasture restaurants in Manila, prepared a rice salad using Chorchor-os and a parsley black salad using Ominio for his cooking demonstration. Meanwhile, Chef Jessie Sincioco, president and CEO of  the 100 Revolving Restaurant and Chef Jessie Rockwell Club, prepared his versions of the ginataan and kalamay sa latik using jekot, and risotto using chong-ak. Both chefs have been passionately promoting heirloom rice in their restaurants. 

The HRP is an initiative under the DA's Food Staples Sufficiency Program. With support from the various agencies of the DA and IRRI, this collaborative project aims to enhance the productivity and enrich the legacy of heirloom or traditional rice through empowered communities in unfavorable rice-based ecosystems. It holds the promise of becoming a remarkable endeavor for culturally rich communities in isolated regions of the world, particularly the hinterlands of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

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